It was really nice having my mom around for a month. I used up a lot of leave from work and chauffeured my mom to various places, which is a lie because it was just the one JC Penney’s we went to, many, many times. A few years ago, JC Penney’s did away with its most celebrated line and only celebrated by my mom: Cabin Creek. Cabin Creek sold elastic waist band capri pants, floral patterned short sleeved blouses and various items that made my mom so happy.
She always knew her outfits were waiting for her whenever I drove her into that magnificent palace for elderly pacific islanders. She was already reeling from JC Penney’s discontinuing the catalog printing. I loved those catalogs. I remember living on Saipan and seeing the thick Christmas catalog coming our way and flipping through the girl’s sections with blonde cherub faces wearing clothes I only saw on Nickelodeon. But with the catalogs gone and her favorite clothing now a distant memory, which wasn’t distant at all because she reminded me ALL THE TIME. Every time we walked into the store, she would say, “They used to have Cabin Creek,” like Cabin Creek was a real cabin nestled in the petite turtle necks babbling brook and ladies pantsuits meadow and was bulldozed to make way for a stupid juniors section housing development with things like rompers and lace dresses that are too short and have a hole in the back.
(in the writing of this, I found out that Cabin Creek is back! Online! But my mother doesn’t shop on a computer, so it might as well not exist anywhere because she thinks that websites start with four w’s (“Can I go to double-u-double-u-double-u-double-u dot com?!” “Sure mom! Try it out!” )
I got used to having someone clean the house, even the table (I could see my table! It wasn’t filled with kid homework and junk mail) and someone who washed my clothes and announced it as, “Neni! I washed your delicates! Maybe you can buy briefs? Briefs would be better!” She also said, “Stop wearing the panty that looks like a scarf and a string!” Like I bought my underwear from the skanky MacGuyver store, where we fashion our unmentionables out of floss and tissue paper to give our mothers heart attacks. What if I just didn’t wear any underwear at all, mom!? Would you be happy then!? Answer: probably not. Most definitely not.
One time I drove her to JC Penney’s (surprise!) and the boys were with us and had fallen asleep by the time we arrived. So I told my mom to go inside and we would wait. I also did the unfortunate thing of saying, “Take your time, mom!” So I waited. And waited. I took a nap. I scrolled through my phone. Then an hour had passed before I started worrying. I couldn’t leave the car because what if she returned and we were gone? What if I couldn’t find her in the massive consumerist behemoth as a mall in full-holiday season shopping frenzy? So I waited some more. I thought about rolling my window down and slipping someone—any one—some cash to find her inside with a list of places she might be: the place that sells pretzels, JC Penney’s, Sears, Macy’s, any kiosk that sells hair products, and other places that a twenty-dollar bill could cover. But then she came back, only two hours after she left and she said when she hopped into the car, “I couldn’t enjoy myself because I was thinking of you!” Oh really mom? When were you thinking of me? The first or second hour? Because I was thinking of you the entire time.
But I didn’t say any of this. I just took her back the next day, sans children, so she could really enjoy herself in a JC Penney’s the way she deserved.
This visit had a happier tone than previous visits. She was way more appreciative of everything I did, she made note when I bought her steelcut flaxseed oatmeal or took her to Japanese restaurants because she loves Japanese food or when I woke up early to bake her an angelfood cake with blueberries on her birthday.
After one of her doctor’s appointments, I was driving and she handed me some cash as a gift. I do this thing whenever my mom gives me money which is, hold her hands and bring her close to me and then I sing, “Aaaaaaay-men! Aaaaaay-men!” So because I was driving and I couldn’t embrace my mother in the standard gratitude song and dance, I just rolled down the window and yelled as loudly as I could into the vast I-5 freeway: “AAAAAAAY-MEEEEEENNNNNNN!”
At the airport, I requested wheelchair assistance for her so a Samoan man appeared and wheeled her to the TSA pre-check in gate. I saw my mom dab her eyes with tissue which of course sent me into tear, freeflow. Big, weepy, sloppy, tears. The type that if I were in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, the nanoscale children below would drown in the river that flowed from my eyes. I did the ugly cry and hugged her and I couldn’t even say anything. I could see her red coat in the sea of people making their way through security. I waved, even though I wasn’t sure she saw me.
Then I put my face in my hands and wept again, waddled to the ladies room and found a stall to weep in some more. Then I brought my sad, puffy, grown ass crying woman face to my car and cried some more there, but not for a long time because you only have fifteen minutes to weep and exit after you pay your ticket. Because the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport parking garage is a business and doesn’t understand the needs of a comic name Mona who just said goodbye to her mother and may not see her for a very long time and will miss her mommy every single day until they meet again.